Something that concerns me just as much, if not more than "green on blue" attacks, is the threat that wears the same uniform as my wife. Sexual harassment and assault are a big problem within the military. Men and women are victimized by their comrades. As a Army civilian employee, I have to attend the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, along with the Soldiers. It is saddening to hear the stories of those that have been attacked by people they trusted with their lives.
In a deployed environment, this is a threat that most people don't realize exists. I personally know of many female Soldiers who, in addition to walking around with their service weapon for protection against enemy attacks, also walk around with knives for protection against fellow Soldiers.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, there were 6,350 sexual assaults reported by service members within the past two years. That number doesn't account for the number of sexual assaults that go unreported. The DOD Safe Helpline was launched in April 2011 to provide support for servicemembers who are victims of sexual assault. From the launch, until the end of the fiscal year (October 2011), the helpline assisted more than 770 individuals. In the general US population, the female sexual assault prevalence is about 17%. In the military, it is within the 23-33% range.
Sexual assault has long lasting side effects, including PTSD. The Center for Deployment Psychology also notes the following:
Military sexual trauma may have more dire consequences for its victims because of a number of phenomena unique to military life. To begin, among military units home, work and social environments are often co-mingled. Though a contributor to unit cohesion, this phenomenon may make it impossible for a victim to find safety; the victim may encounter the assailant in barracks, at work, or where unit members spend leisure time. The omnipresence of weapons may increase the sense of physical threat during an assault. The need to depend on one another in combat operations may undermine a victims’ resolve to fight off an assault. It may also deter a victim from filing a complaint. When the rapist is the ranking officer, these difficulties are intensified (Sadler et al, 2003). Victims may be fearful of saying “no” to a commanding officer’s advances or attacks, and may fear that bringing charges in the aftermath would put their lives in greater danger. Some victims fear that accusing one’s commanding officer of sexual assault will end the victim’s military career.
These are the sad facts. And these are the things that cause me to toss and turn at night. I see the stories on the news about roadside bombs and "green on blue" attacks and they make my stomach turn. But I am equally disturbed by the statistics of servicemembers sexually assaulting other servicemembers. Though these attacks may not directly result in troop deaths, they can have a long lasting psychological effects and could even lead to suicide.
The training classes are a great tool to educate people, but real change starts with the people at the bottom, not a mandatory class that came down from the top. All accounts of sexual harassment and assault must be taken seriously and investigated without prejudice based on the reputation or rank of the servicemembers involved. Prosecution has to extend far beyond just a slap on the wrist, which could be accomplished with a mandatory minimum sentence for such charges. According to an article I read on Military.com, convicted sex offenders in the military receive about 2 years in prison per victim; while in the civilian world, the sentence is about 10 years in prison per victim.
So as I close my eyes and say a prayer for our troops fighting the war against terrorist organizations, I also pray for their safety against the threats that many people don't realize exist. It's hard enough to fight a war against an enemy who is willing to die for their beliefs; imagine how hard it is when you're not sure if you can trust those who swore an oath to stand by you in this fight.